03 July 2017

Revelation: They Were Blessed

For I testify to everyone who hears the words of the prophecy of this book: If anyone adds to these things, God will add to him the plagues that are written in this book; and if anyone takes away from the words of the book of this prophecy, God shall take away his part from the Book of Life, from the holy city, and from the things which are written in this book. (Rev 22:18-19)

The Bible is history. It is the written revelation of God’s historical, redemptive act of salvation through Jesus Christ from beginning to end. It is the story of grace, hope, and redemption for both Jews and gentiles, for those “…who are near and those who are far off.” Although the story is simple enough, anyone who has seriously studied Scripture know some passages and words are not easily understood.

One mysterious book has confused and divided some of the brightest students and scholars for nearly 2 millennia. According to R.C Sproul, “Whole systems of eschatological thought have been labeled and identified in accordance with the place the millennium holds within each system.” (The Last Days According to Jesus Christ, R.C Sproul. Pg. 193.)

These include: historic premillennialism, dispensational premillennialism, amillennialism, postmillennialism, partial preterism, and full preterism. Some of these views spring from Revelation ch. 20 alone excluding subsystems of thought or divided opinion within each group. One could spend a life time navigating endless articles and commentaries on each position.

Why then should countless interpretations on the Parousia be any different than views on other major doctrines? We can all agree Jesus is Lord and savior so why should it matter? Love God with all your heart and understanding, trust in Jesus, and love your neighbor as yourself. All the Law and prophets are summed up in these. Is it really a big deal we should have different ideas about “…when these things shall be, and the end of the age?”

Like anything else, it matters because how we understand the second advent may influence our thinking when interpreting certain passages. If we understand New Testament prophecy as a past or fulfilled event, verses like Ro. 13:11 change our concept of time. Paul’s warning to the church at Rome becomes something about to occur within their generation. “The things which must soon take place…” in Rev. 1:1 is near – even at the doors of the 7 churches in Asia. Likewise, Mat 24 is one continuous discourse apart from any discontinuity or break in the text. All prophecy is fulfilled. Jesus Christ came and went in a "twinkling of an eye" at the destruction of Jerusalem in A.D 70. 

On the opposite side, time is elastic. In this sense Paul’s exhortation in 2 Tim 3:1 is not only a real-time warning for him, but for all elders in subsequent generations to the present. The “last days” can mean from the inception of the church to the present. In this scheme, the plain understanding of at least some words is not so plain anymore. The Olivet Discourse is picked apart. “You” becomes “all” and “age” means the physical destruction of the world and the of end time as we know it. The student and scholar must determine which phrases and words mean now at the time the letter was written and those that mean imminent for the last 2000 years.  

The list of difficulties goes on. It would seem there is no end to it. As a result, some would argue though we have different opinions on eschatology we must look at the over all teaching of the New Testament. We should not be overly concerned about end times as opposed to salvation and individual sanctification. What matters is faith in Jesus Christ and obedience. This, despite over 66 verses with context (excluding Old Testament passages) and one entire book in the New Testament devoted to the Parousia.

The first sermon this writer heard over 20 years ago was on End Times. The minister gave a brief explanation on 4 major positions and then went on to explain which he believed was the correct one. Before the alter call he said, whatever choice you make among these different views you can be sure Jesus Christ is coming back one day, and you must ask yourself – are you ready?

I would echo the good minister’s call with an exception. Jesus said in Jn 7:1-8, “My time has not yet come, but your time is always ready.” Jesus Christ was to die on the cross for all who believe in Him, not 1 minute before, or 1 minute after. It was God’s timing. Our time is now. I do not mean 1000 years from now but from the instant you hear the Gospel call.
The exception is this, the basics of proper Bible study say there can be only one intended meaning. The Bible was written from the context of the author to the context of the recipients. It had a specific audience and addressed real time problems. The word of God is not a smorgasbord of ideas to pick and choose whatever fancies our taste.

The Bible is truth. Truth does not contradict or give contrary statements. It is yes or no, not yes and no. We are not allowed historic premillennialism and amillennialism. Otherwise, the warning at the beginning of this article means nothing or anything you want it to mean.

But surely God is merciful is He not? Maybe it was just His way of saying He really, really wants us to pay attention and get it right. 

If you have come this far you may have thought the obvious. There is nothing new here. In part 2, I intend to prove someone indeed got it right. They did not simply agree to disagree while singing The Battle Hymn of the Republic. They understood the Revelation of Jesus Christ, which God gave Him to show His servants—things which must shortly take place. 

They understood, and they were blessed.

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